What do Koreans Think About Turkey?

Dear Korean,

I always wondered what Korean people think about Turkey and Turkish people. I was in high school during 2002 World Cup. I was shocked when i see the large Turkish flag on the stadium carried by Koreans. Maybe there were always a love for Korean people in Turkish community. But that was the time I realized that. Two cultures have many similarities, and during the Korean War Turkey sent soldiers to Korea and there is a cemetery for Turkish soldiers in Busan. And during World Cup we felt like we were at our homeland.

Do new generation know about Turkey and Turkish people. What they know and think about us?

Ishak M.

The Korean receives many questions of a similar type:  "What do Korean people think about [Country X]?" In most cases, the answer is simple -- unless Country X is a country with which Korea interacts frequently (e.g., United States, Japan, China,) Koreans are unlikely to have any strong feelings about the country one way or the other. Any thoughts Koreans may have about that country would be no more than fleeting, inconsequential stereotypes.

But there are a few countries around the world that are exceptions to this trend -- that is, although Korea does not interact with them all that frequently, Koreans nonetheless have a relatively concrete feeling toward them. Turkey is one of those countries.

Koreans supporting Turkish national soccer team during 2002 FIFA World Cup
in a game against China, held in Seoul. (source)
Why Turkey? For this simple reason -- during Korean War, Turkey sent soldiers in aid of South Korea. In fact, Turkey sent the most number of soldiers (5,460) after the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, and had the most number of casualties (741 dead, 2,068 wounded, 163 MIA) following United States and United Kingdom among those countries that sent soldiers.

One should never underestimate just how grateful South Koreans are about being helped in that war. To this day, most Koreans would first associate Turkey with "blood ally" [혈맹]. It also helps that, since the end of the war, Turkey and Korea have maintained a healthy distance that is so crucial to a good friendship. (This is in contrast to the United States, which undoubtedly did a lot of things to annoy Koreans partially because it has been a little too close, eating away at the good will it earned by having been the greatest help in Korean War.) The fact that Korean pop culture ended up being popular in Turkey later is just gravy.

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